Four reasons why Oxfam – and the Oxfam big heads – are at the UN Climate Talks in Poland

by alvaro | November 16, 2013
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You might know that Oxfam is in chilly Warsaw this November, at the UN climate change talks. But what does that mean, and what are we doing here?

Each year, governments, NGOs (non governmental organisations), community organisations, media and other people from around the world meet at a UN event to spend two weeks trying to work out how to solve the huge problem of climate change. It’s always busy, often fascinating, and sometimes very frustrating – as some countries do their best to block progress for various reasons (often financial).

This year, Oxfam is at the talks to campaign on several important issues:

1. A climate crisis is a food crisis

Rising temperatures are having a huge impact on food. Unless we get climate change under control, food prices will keep rising, floods and droughts will devastate harvests, more crops will fail, food quality will drop, farmers around the world will struggle to cope and millions more people will be trapped by chronic hunger. We can prevent this from becoming our new reality. But the time for action is now.

To mark the talks beginning, we invited four of the Oxfam Big Heads – Obama, Merkel, Holland and Abe – to sell some food at a famous market stall in Warsaw. Unfortunately, the food the world leaders were offering was not in the best state: climate change has meant the food was scarce, poor quality and overpriced. Take a look at the photos.

2. Climate change costs money

Rich countries have promised to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate and reduce their emissions. In fact, together they’ve promised $100 billion a year from 2020 – great! But they haven’t done anything to fulfil those promises. This year, all developed countries must say how much money they’re each going to provide until 2020, and agree plans for the $100 billion to be met each year afterwards .

Rich countries want to use the private sector to fund their $100bn commitments. But private finance will only be invested where it can make a profit – it won’t reach the poorest and most vulnerable people struggling to adapt to a changing climate. It’s really important that at least half that $100bn must be earmarked for adaptation – to make sure poor people can deal with the effects of climate change.

3. We need to reduce emissions

Climate change is harming food production and increasing hunger. Every day of delay costs in acres of crops destroyed, numbers of lives devastated and dollars spent.

Governments must make deeper emissions reductions in the next seven years. And by next year they must put forward fair – and ambitious – emissions reduction pledges for the longer term. Countries must not continue to cherry pick emissions reduction targets to suit themselves – a recipe for political and climatic disaster – but set targets in line with what the science says is needed and the adequacy of targets needs to be assessed according to what is fair.

4. We can’t rely on dirty energy

Dirty energy (coal and oil) is the single biggest driver of climate change. It will wreck the climate, and with it any prospect of addressing hunger. Governments must start investing in clean energy and a climate and food secure future now.

The Polish government is using the talks in Warsaw as a platform to sell the false solution of ‘clean coal’ (Poland makes a lot of money from coal). They’re not taking climate change seriously. They must not be allowed to distract negotiations or derail climate action in Europe and elsewhere.

So we’re here talking to governments, charities and people affected by climate change to drive home these important points and try to make sure we help stop climate change – and stop hunger – as soon as possible.
Al Kinney is Oxfam Great Britain Digital Campaigner

A version of this blog originally appeared at

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